I got back to Austin 3 days ago. Just walking outside of the airport I was already dripping in sweat. It’s been over 100 degrees everyday. Every summer it gets hotter, and especially here. Before I arrived here in Austin I went to Brooklyn. I flew from Stockholm to New York because why not? My mom and brother met me and we spent the day in Coney Island. I love New York! We only got on the wrong train twice. I felt like a badass in London riding the tube everywhere with no problems and a dumbass in Brooklyn having to ask for help multiple times. So annoying. Theres a meme I saw of Whitney Houston recently looking completely over it, it said “When you make plans with your family and then you remember why you never make plans with your family”. I love my family. Being so far away has made me see who is really there for me, but still…its family. I don’t mind getting lost and having to navigate myself, I do that all the time. Having to do it for other people is exhausting, don’t be mad mom. Coney Island was nice, the weather was perf. I haven’t been there in 7 years I think, of course I spent too much money in the gift shop and splurged at Nathan’s. Those fried clam strips! Theres something about the Atlantic Ocean that just brings me back, it’s a part of those childhood memories. I grew up going to Rehobeth Beach, DE and Ocean City, MD mostly but I feel at home being anywhere on the east coast. The next day we went to my hometown in DE. I was just there last month, but I’ve gone so many places in between it felt a little weird, but it always feels weird going home. I couldn’t leave without getting a water ice and seeing my aunts. The AC is broken at my job in Austin. I worked 9 hrs in 98 degree weather yesterday.
The first time I can remember saying y’all was a few years ago at one of my former coworkers going away party. I was taking a picture of a few of my coworkers and while trying to frame it I said “Y’all are not in it”. I immediately caught myself. Ever since I’ve been ridiculously trying to preserve my “you guys”. I feel weird about saying it because it is a micro aggression, but its a part of those things about myself that I don’t want to lose no matter where I go. I know it seems weird, but its like a recipe that I don’t want to change even if its not gluten free or organic. Losing parts of yourself is what happens when you grow, its normal. Living far away from home its like you have this double consciousness because I desperately don’t want to lose my east coast self but I still can’t help but adapt and absorb the changes that happen while growing. Now I just sound like a stupid Yankee.
Before I decided where I wanted to go on my trip I was randomly looking up flights (which I do in my spare time whether I have a trip planned or not) and I was searching for a place that had a fairly reasonable price for a one way ticket from anywhere in Europe to JFK. I came across Stockholm and decided to fly from there. It was only around $400 and I’d get to visit Sweden which is cool since I’ve never been. My last full day in England I spent in Liverpool. The National Express bus never fails me! I went to a slavery museum, pretty awkward being the only black person in there. As well as the Tate Liverpool which was very impressive, not as big as the one in London of course, but it was just as awesome. Liverpool is a much bigger city than I had originally imagined, it was pretty bustling. Naturally I took picture of Beatles statues and memorabilia, there wasn’t as much as I thought there’d be but their presence was still prominent. I was sad to leave Manchester the next morning, not only did I love the city, I really enjoyed my Airbnb and host. My flight didn’t leave until the evening, so I spent most of the day in the Manchester Piccadilly train station and then the airport. I didn’t get to Stockholm until almost 2 am. Of course once I got to my hotel (yes, hotel! Living large!) my debit card wouldn’t work. What is the point of calling your bank to set up a travel plan in advance? They do this to me every time. After being on hold for almost ten mins with Wells Fargo I finally made it to my room and crashed. There weren’t any windows, which I was aware of and wasn’t bothered by…until the next morning. It was freaky waking up in a pitch black dark room, a mind fuck actually. I hurried and turned the light on immediately and tried to get myself together. I was struggling from going to bed so late but I made my way out to see and feel the sun. The neighborhood was nice but it was a 20-30 minute walk from all the touristy stuff. It was a nice walk though. My favorite areas were Gamla Stan, the old town, and Sofo, where the hipsters reside. I walked through the narrow streets and bought souvenirs, ate ice cream and a waffle with Nutella, filled up my water bottle numerous times in the big fountain, and ate real Swedish fish. I did something today that I’ve never done, I went on a food tour. It was a good experience. It was just me and a couple from New Jersey. Funny how you go around the world and still meet people from your neck of the woods. We tried moose, reindeer, Swedish meatballs, three different types of black licorice and a really good fish soup. I thought I’d be all tour’ed out from all the tours we did on my study abroad trip but I’m happy I did this one. It wasn’t cheap, but trying the delicacies of different countries literally gives you a taste of their culture. So here I am at the airport in Stockholm. I just checked my mountain of a suitcase, went through security with no problems (for probably the first time ever), and praying that this will actually post because the wifi sucks, cheers. Oops, I mean heja Sverige!
After over a six hour bus ride yesterday I finally arrived in Manchester. At first I was kind of nervous, I knew that my Airbnb wasn’t right downtown and my 28′ samsonite is hell lugging around on the regular city bus. On cue it started to rain as soon as I left the bus station, just picture this: me with a bright blue suitcase you could see from space, my backpack, purse, a bag of snacks from Pret A Manger (love that place) and my umbrella, oh yeah and my phone out to navigate. Hell. It started to rain even harder when I was on the city bus to my accommodations. The house was an eight minute walk from the bus stop, which is fine if in only had a purse (and a brain that told me not to pack so heavy, I wouldn’t of listened anyway) but with all this extra baggage weighing me down I felt like I was climbing Mt. Everest just walking down the street. I was having to manhandle my suitcase, it was acting just as tired as I was, and google maps, that bitch is just as lost as Dorothy trying to find Oz. Wow, I am really throwing in the Wizard of Oz references with this post, aren’t I?! Anyhoo, I made it to the house, fiddled with the lock box and made my way in and up two flights of stairs with all my shit to a beautiful attic bedroom space just for me. It felt and looked like heaven, literally, its on the top floor and the decor is all white. Having my own private space means so much to me. The place I stayed in Brighton was nice but it wasn’t as private as I would’ve liked. After a long journey having your own space to decompress is necessary. I wasn’t going to go out but I took a walk, a nice post rain walk and I’m really happy I did. The neighborhood reminds me of my old neighborhood on the west side of Wilmington, DE. Chinese food and fried chicken places on every block, too many corner stores to count, everyday people walking down the street. I thoroughly enjoyed what I was seeing. I actually felt comfortable walking down the street in the neighborhood I’m staying in. I can’t say that about everywhere I’ve stayed. Seeing other brown people makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside and also more secure. I don’t have to worry about people staring at me like I’m a fucking spectacle or something. They’ll just stare because of my bodacious legs, not because I’m some weird novelty. I even heard someone singing Janet Jacksons “Nasty” today, that sealed my love for this city! Today I bought a lot of cute shit that I don’t need, some more rings and headwraps, cute shirts and a hot dress that will be in the closet longer than Kevin Spacey. Walked around until my feet hurt, ate a two piece chicken meal and here I am. Manchester and me!
Time flies when you’re black and traveling alone in England, you can quote me. Tonight is my last night in Brighton. As soon as we rolled in I immediately felt a lot more comfortable here than in Dover. The colorful buildings, quirky stores, and black people, hallelujah (not many, but still). I spent the past three days walking around, buying more cute stuff, and sitting on the rocky beach. Today I treated myself to something I usually only do once a year, I got a pedicure. Contrary to when I’m on holiday, I’m a penny pincher when I’m at home in Austin. I don’t eat out often, I don’t go shopping, and I never get my hair or nails done because I’m always saving up for my next trip. Today was the perfect day for some self maintenance. It was great to let someone else take care of me. I ate lunch at this cute bar and then got a massage. Feeling totally relaxed I went to this funky theater and saw the “Whitney” documentary. It was just as heavy as I’d expected and sad, but also uplifting. She was a national treasure and no one could ever match her. Oh my gosh, I totally almost forgot. The first thing I did this morning was go to the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. It was so cool. I highly recommend it. They had an entire room dedicated to queer looks and transgender peoples journeys. Also an exhibit about Nigerian fashion and Carnival costumes. One exhibit was dedicated to two artists I’ve never heard of, Gilbert and George. Their eccentric, colorful, provocative pieces hung so deliberately in your face. At first I was going to pass on this because I didn’t know if I’d have time, but this was one of the best places I visited on my trip so far. Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m rushing through these posts. I don’t want it to come across like that. I want quality. I don’t want it to seem like I’m doing this for shits and gigs (even though thats exactly what it is) I just want my passion to exude. I also now realize how hard it is to not be in certain forms of contact with the people you love. I really miss talking to my friend Amy, and most of all I really really miss the sound of my moms voice. I don’t want another $400 phone bill so we email almost everyday instead of talk, but I really want to hear the sound of her voice. I go back to the US in one week. I’m not particularly homesick or anything, but along with the conversion rate I’m really looking forward to hearing her annoy me.
Wow. That word describes almost everyday for the past two weeks. My study abroad class ended 3 days ago. I’ve been to London before, almost three years ago exactly and I liked it, but this time, this time you guys…I LOVED IT. A few things I’m happy about……1) Where the class stayed: Right near Oxford Circus and Soho, perfect location to go out and get sweaty on the dance floor as well as cool restaurants and shopping…2) The markets! I love spending money on literally anything, even shit I have no use for and never will. Theres so many outside markets in London that quenched my thirst. Portobello Road, Camden Market, and Brick Lane. Man, I cleaned up at all three. I spent the most time at Camden (and the most money), I don’t even wear jewelry that much and now I have a handmade ring for every finger….3) Extended stay: At first I wasn’t going to stay in London any longer because the class was already going to be there for a week plus I’d been there before. I am elated I decided to stay for two extra nights because PRIDE!! Yes Gawd! London Pride just so happened to be going on right after the class ended so a few of my classmates and I got to go to Pride in London! It was colorful, crowded, loud and everything I day dream of, I’ll always be geeked about it.
The first day waking up without running into anyone on the way to the bathroom was weird. It felt like I had 14 siblings for almost three weeks and now that I don’t its kind of sad. We’d eat at least two meals a day together and hang out in each others rooms regularly. I like being alone more than the average person, but it was nice having the option to explore with someone else if I wanted the company. On my last night in London we went to this awesome brewery and restaurant called Crate in Hackney Wick which is surrounded by graffiti with good people watching. Then we ventured to the The Eagle, a gay bar,and danced the night away until almost 4 am! One of us ripped their pants, another one of us wore pasties at Pride…guess with one was me? It was so much fun and ridiculous and I wish I was doing it again right now. I got to go though, solo travels commence!
We’re in foggy Londontown now, except it isn’t foggy at all. I basically bought a new wardrobe at H&M two nights ago. Its coochie cutter weather in the UK, who knew? I packed for fall weather because its usually chilly over here. Dublin was the only place we’ve gone where pants were necessary, but here in London, they are experiencing a ‘heatwave’ (coughs, 80 degrees Fahrenheit). That, my faithful readers, is winter time weather in Austin, TX. They keep announcing to make sure you carry water and stay hydrated. It’s almost like a state of emergency over here.
I love London, even more than the first time, but with the class we’ve been taking many day trips. Our first one was to Oxford, England. We did a tour of the campus as well as the city. Oxford is such a prestigious school, more than half who apply aren’t accepted. Everything is so old and fancy, even the dining hall looks like a wedding reception venue. Our city tour guide was a whimsical dame who I’m convinced is the real life Mary Poppins. She told us stories about how the story of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ came about and places and people that inspired it. Notable authors J.R.R Tolkein and C.S. Lewis both taught and lived at Oxford.
Two days later we ventured off to Canterbury. Before we left we read some of the Canterbury tales so it was interesting to see where they were written. We went on a tour of the cathedral and the cute little town and also watched a seagull eat French fries off of someones plate, cheers! Our guide was the tinies little English grandmother. She used to be a school teacher and is the type who would still take you over her knee. She scolded some of the students for playing footsies and wanted us standing in formation. One of my classmates called her sassy, she wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or not, it is.
Today we took an early train to Cambridge. Just like Canterbury and Oxford, Cambrige is adorable and full of history. Its history is rich in science as well as literature. Charles Darwin was a student there, as well as John Harvard who founded Harvard University in Cambrige, Massachusetts. Theres a tree outside of Sir Isaac Newtons old dorm room that is a direct descendant of the tree that he was sitting under when the apple fell down on him. Also Noble Prize winners for discovering the DNA structure were students at Cambrige. After lunch we went punting, which I never knew was a thing. It looks like a gondola except the guy pushing the boat isn’t wearing stripes. It was very relaxing and the guy pushing our boat looked like a young Howard Stern.
Theres only two days left with the class! Its been a summer so far. It feels like I have 14 siblings now so it will definitely be weird to not have to consider anyone, but also liberating. We only have a few activates left with each other and then we’re off!